Visit for the latest Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) updates.

You are here

Evidence-Based Resource Summary

Strength of Evidence: 
4 out of 4
4 out of 4
Year Published: 

Cochrane Summary – Opioids for the Treatment of Chronic Low-Back Pain

Description of Resource: 
Low-back pain is a major cause of pain, disability, and cost to individuals, their families, and society in general. Up to 85% of the general population will experience low-back pain at some point in their lives. In most cases, the pain eases within 4 to 6 weeks and individuals are able to return to their normal activities. However, by some estimates, in up to 30% of the cases, the pain will persist for up to a year or longer. Three studies (908 participants) are included that compared opioids with a placebo (fake medication). On average, those receiving tramadol, an atypical weak opioid, reported more pain relief and less difficulty performing their daily activities in the short term than those who received a placebo. In a 4th study (36 participants), on average, those receiving an opioid, either morphine or a morphine-derivative, reported little or no difference in terms of pain relief in the short term compared with those who received a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (naproxen). In general, there was little or no difference between the 2 groups in their ability to perform daily activities.

Evidence-Based Resource Details

help Learn more about EBR criteria
Developed By: 
Cochrane Collaboration
Developer Type: 
Non-Federal Government
Healthy People 2020 Topic Area(s): 
Arthritis, Osteoporosis, and Chronic Back Conditions
Healthy People 2020 Objectives: 
Resource Type: 
Systematic Review
Chaparro L, Furlan AD, Deshpande A, Mailis-Gagnon A, Atlas S, Turk DC. Opioids compared to placebo or other treatments for chronic low-back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Internet]. 2013 Aug 27 [cited 2014 Mar 10]. Available from: